Not to be confused with the Toyota Corolla sedan — the one you probably know — the 2017 Toyota Corolla iM is a four-door hatchback formerly called the Scion iM. Parent company Toyota dissolved Scion in 2016 but adopted the iM into the Toyota house. More than just the badge is new: For 2017, the iM adds important safety features not offered when it was a Scion.
Otherwise, little else has changed. The only options are a dealer-installed navigation system and an automatic transmission to replace the standard manual transmission. Those who want heated seats, satellite radio or a moonroof are out of luck — none are offered, which keeps the price low.
I tested an iM with the automatic transmission priced at $20,375, including an $885 destination charge.
Exterior & Styling
The iM is an attractive hatchback. Its sleek profile and sharp edges create an athletic appearance. There’s a minimal gap between the wheels and fenders, and the standard 17-inch wheels are an attractive set of rollers with dark gray spokes and low-profile tires. Toyota did an admirable job pumping up the sedate overseas version (called the Toyota Auris) with more aggressive styling for the U.S.
How It Drives
Unfortunately, the iM’s hot-hatch athleticism is only skin deep. The Toyota Corolla iM is the automotive equivalent of smoking cigarettes while wearing skintight activewear. The iM looks sporty enough, but try to get the lead out and the iM coughs and wheezes up to speed. Its noisy 137-horsepower, 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine isn’t nearly as refined as the offerings in the pricier Chevrolet Cruze, Honda Civic or Mazda3 hatchbacks. Compare the iM with those here.
The iM isn’t underpowered, but the gravelly sounding engine is ill-matched with the responsive continuously variable automatic transmission. The CVT is quick to accelerate, but the buzz saw under the hood exaggerates every CVT adjustment into a noticeable and loud groan. In the handling department, the iM drives more like a casual commuter than a hot hatchback — atypical in a class that promotes driving fun, as in the tight-handling Cruze, Civic and Mazda3.
The iM’s front seats were cushioned and contoured to fit my slender, 6-foot-tall body well, and they were comfortable over a five-hour trip of mostly highway driving. Sitting in the rear seat, however, is a little less luxurious. It’s tight for the class; hatchbacks like the Cruze and Civic offer more spacious rear seats.
Quality materials are a high point of the iM’s interior; they’re a tad higher-quality than the Corolla sedan. Climate controls include piano black buttons and toggle switches surrounded by contrast accent stitching and minimalistic dark silver trim. My automatic transmission test car had a stitched gear selector boot, and the center console is padded to let a leg gently rest against it during long highway drives. What stands out as exceptional is the leather-covered steering wheel and details in the instrument panel that were more interesting than those in a top trim 2017 Toyota Corolla XLE I recently tested.
The iM’s standard features aren’t going to blow you away, but what’s offered is impressive considering the car is priced at the bottom end of its class. Dual automatic climate control, keyless entry, cruise control and the leather-trimmed steering wheel are all standard, as is a standard forward collision warning system (discussed in detail below).
What’s missing are options like heated seats, a moonroof, leather upholstery and remote start. Those, of course, add cost to competitors, but they aren’t even optional on the iM. I tested the Corolla iM in the middle of a Chicago winter, when heated seats are a must-have. Right afterward, I drove a Cruze hatchback with optional heated seats, heated steering wheel and remote start. They made the Cruze a much more pleasant car to drive in the cold, but then, it was nearly 30 percent more expensive at $26,475.
Ergonomics & Electronics